Friday, October 9, 2015

Sing With All Your Might

As I read through the Old Testament, one thing I continue to find striking is how often singing and shouting accompany the great and good times that the Israelites experience. And sometimes, it even accomplishes powerful acts.

It leaves me curious. Curious if I have, for too long, not given music the emphasis it should rightfully have. This past year, I believe for the first time that I began to recognize the power music has. As I fought lies and sin and unhealthy emotions, I saw that music had the power to completely change my thoughts and emotions. There were some songs that I realized I needed to completely delete out of my life.

But then I began feeling the life that good songs can bring. And I started searching for these songs that spoke truth. These songs preached to my soul when I felt the heat of the desert. They encouraged me when I wanted to give up. They spoke truth to me when the lies were relentless. They calmed me when anxiety abounded.

I became convinced that music is an act of warfare. I drown out the noise from the devil when I fill my ears and heart and soul and mind with music that worships Jesus. There is no room for Satan when words of truth and worship of my Savior are in my head and on my lips.

But this was all personal experience. Which is significant. But then I started seeing the power of music not just in my own life but in the stories of God-fearing men from long ago.

I've been reading in 2 Chronicles. There's this pretty incredible story. Yes, in 2 Chronicles. The storyline of 2 Chronicles is essentially the deep sinfulness and evil of the hearts of Judah (the people of God) and yet the great faithfulness of God despite it all. The Chronicler tells this story to a group of returned exiles (Israelites had been carried off for many years into exile... God gave them over to foreign lands because of their great unfaithfulness). The story of 2 Chronicles is meant to be an encouragement to these returned exiles... though they have sinned greatly, God's grace and love is greater. He always offers forgiveness for a repentant heart, and he always offers the opportunity for repentance before he destroys.

So, that's an overview of the book, but let's get back to the incredible story. There's a king named Jehoshaphat. He was the great great great grandson of David, the great king and man after God's own heart. Jehoshaphat was not wholly faithful to God, but he did follow him for a great part of his life. During this time, God tested them. He allowed a group of people to come up against them in battle. A great multitude of people. Jehoshaphat was afraid, but he sought the Lord.

And here is what the Lord told him to do.

"Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours, but God's. Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf."

God is going to fight for them.

Go a little further in the story, and here it is. Here is my favorite part:

And when they began to sing and praise, the LORD set an ambush against the men of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah, so that they were routed. (2 Chronicles 20:22)

Their singing won them the battle. Isn't that incredible? There singing proved that they believed and trusted God above themselves. Which is always, always a good and crucial thing... to trust God above ourselves. But don't miss the absurdity of what they were believing and trusting. 

They were trusting that singing rather than fighting would win them the battle because God said it would. They were believing that a great army could come up against them and no harm would be done to them if they just stayed put

There is no logical reasoning in their actions. Why would it ever make sense that a great army could be defeated by staying put and singing? But God can accomplish a lot when we believe in his power, and the people of Judah sang to show their belief. They silenced their fear (can you imagine how fearful such a situation would be?) by lifting their voices in song to the God of this universe. 

A little later, in 2 Chronicles 30, King Hezekiah makes reforms for Judah. Since Jehoshaphat, many awful kings had held the throne, including Hezekiah's own evil father, Ahaz. Ahaz murdered some of his own sons by burning them on an altar to a false god. But Hezekiah loved the Lord, and he restored the temple and called on all the people of Israel and Judah to return to the Lord by celebrating Passover together (followed by the Feast of Unleavened Bread). While some laughed at him and thought he was out of his mind, there were many who did come to worship. What a difference a good leader makes. During the Passover celebration (which is a time when the Israelites celebrated God delivering them from the hand of Egypt), the people gathered and remembered how good the Lord had been to them.

And the people of Israel who were present at Jerusalem kept the Feast of Unleavened Bread seven days with great gladness, and the Levites and the priests praised the LORD day by day, singing with all their might to the LORD. 

I stopped when I read that and just considered it. They sang with all their might. Do I sing with all my might? Maybe sometimes. Certainly not most of the time. But why not, when I am singing to the God of the universe?!

And 2 Chronicles isn't alone. There are many other times where singing is mentioned in the Bible.

Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. Psalm 96:1-2

They sang, praising and giving thanks to the LORD, saying, "For He is good, for His lovingkindess is upon Israel forever." And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. Ezra 3:11

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them,and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. Acts 26:25-26

As I read my Bible and experience music in my own life, I have become convinced that listening to and singing words of truth are so valuable for many reasons:

- It helps us remember truth
- It helps us to drown out the lies
- It shows that we trust God 
- It allows us to praise God in a beautiful way
- It helps us let go of anger and fear
- It helps us obey truth (Col. 3:16)
- It gives us a way to encourage one another (Eph. 5:19)
- It gives God the glory he is worthy of

I have fell in love with so many worship songs this year, but here are a few of my favorites:

2. John Mark McMillan: Future/Past, The Goodness, King of My Heart
3. Will Reagan & United Pursuit: Set a Fire, Never Going Back
4. Elevation Worship: Great Things (Worth It All)
7. Hillsong: Oceans
8. Matt Maher: Christ is Risen
9. Phil Wickham: Thirst
10. Vertical Church Band: The Rock Won't Move
11. Rend Collective: Second Chances, 10,000 Reasons
12. Steffany Gretzinger: Steady Heart
13. Kari Jobe: Forever
14. Sovereign Grace Music: All I Have is Christ
15. Shane & Shane: Though You Slay Me (If you're struggling with anything, watch this one!)

If you finish these and need more, just let me know :) This is, by no way, an exhaustive list, but it is certainly some of my very favorites. 

So not only have I been desiring to make singing praise and truth a part of my life, but I have been teaching hymns to my girls so that they can sing truth too (and they learn worship songs that I listen to as well). Recently, we have started including instruments in our worship time as well... and dancing, sometimes :) I want them to learn to worship God with their whole being, not reserved or self-conscious. 

Words are always speaking something... either life or death. This isn't a post to tell you what to listen to or not, but this past year, God has asked me to really consider the message that every song speaks. Is it preaching life to me? Or is it preaching some other message? 

And truly, as I've taken this journey this past year, songs of Life have changed me. I'm still learning to sing with all my might, so I'm still on the journey. Join me :) 

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